From the book——
SURPRISING THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GOD
An Eternal Purpose
The decrees of God may be defined as God's eternal purpose (in a real sense, all things are embraced in one purpose) or purposes, based on his most wise and holy counsel, whereby he ordained (appointed or predetermined) all that comes to pass. With infinite power and infinite wisdom, God has from all eternity past decided and chosen and determined the course of all events.
His decrees . . .
reveal God's eternal purpose;
are based on his most wise and holy counsel;
originate in his freedom;
are a result of his omnipotent desires;
have as their end his glory;
and embrace all that comes to pass.
The two kinds of decrees. There are things that God purposes through his power to bring about; there are other things that he merely determines to permit (Rom. 8:28). But even in the case of the permissive decrees, God rules over all things for his glory (Matt. 18:7; Acts 2:23).
Proof of the decrees. The events in the universe are neither a surprise nor a disappointment to God, nor the result of his impulsive or random will. Instead they are the outworking of a definite purpose and plan of God as taught in Scripture: The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, . . . For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" (Isa. 14:24. 27 nasb).
Reasons for God's actions. Why was God not content to confine his fellowship and activity to the Trinity? We are assured that God always has reasons for his actions (Deut. 29:29). "Later you will understand" (John 13:7) is encouraging in that we will someday understand the meaning of certain puzzling Scriptures and the mysteries of certain perplexing acts of God.
The highest aim of the decrees is the glory of God. Creation glorifies him. David says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Ps. 19:1). When God declares that he will refine Israel in the furnace of affliction, he adds, "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another" (Isa. 48:11).
Seeking glory. For humanity to seek glory would be selfishness, but that is because we are sinful and imperfect. To seek for such glory would be to seek to glorify sinfulness and imperfection. But this is not the case with God. He is absolutely sinless and perfect in holiness. For him to aim at his own glory is, therefore, merely to seek the glory of absolute holiness and sinless perfection. There is no one and nothing higher to glorify. We must aim in everything to glorify him who is the manifestation of all goodness, purity, wisdom, and truth.
God has decreed all that has come to pass in the material and physical realm, in the moral and spiritual realm, and in the social and political realm.
God decreed to create the universe and humankind.
He decreed to establish the earth. He also decreed never again to destroy the population of the earth by means of a universal flood. He distributed the nations, appointed their seasons, and set the bounds of their habitation. He also decreed the length of human life and the manner of our exit from this life. All the other events in the material and physical realm have likewise been decreed and are in God's plan and purpose.
God's decrees in the moral and spiritual realm leave us with two basic problems: the existence of evil in the world and the freedom of humanity. How can a holy God allow moral evil, and how can a sovereign God permit man to be free?
God determined to permit sin. Though God is not the author of sin (James 1:13-14), and didn't necessitate it, he did, on the basis of his wise and holy counsel, decree to permit the fall and sin to come. God did this in light of what he knew would be the nature of sin. of what he knew sin would do to his creation. And he knew all that would have to be done to redeem humanity from their sin. God could have prevented it, but he chose instead to gift his creatures—angels and mankind—with a free will. "In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways" (Acts 14:16 nasb).
He determined to overrule sin for good. This determination is inseparable from the one to permit sin. But God is sovereign, holy, and wise and he cannot permit sin to thwart his purposes. It must be overruled for good. Joseph said to his brothers, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Gen.50:20 nasb). The psalmist said, "The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations" (Ps. 33:10-11).
God determined to save mankind from sin. All Christians are agreed that God has decreed to save humanity, but not all are agreed as to how he does so. We must remember that (1) God must take the initiative in salvation, (2) humanity, even in our present helpless state, is responsible, and (3) God's decrees are not based on random or arbitrary decisions, but rather on his wise and holy counsel. Some see election as dependent upon divine foreknowledge, others see election and foreknowledge, as they relate to saving faith, as essentially inseparable.
The "plan of God" or the "will of God" refers not only to all events in history, but all human actions, all the affairs of nations, and even the period of human life. Each man's and woman's birth, death, and salvation are part of God's plan.
God "calls" or "invites" all to know him. Some believe that God has called only the elect to know him. Others believe there is a general invitation for all people to be saved, and it is given through the Word of God. That said, it is understood that not all people will be saved.
God determined to reward his servants and to punish the disobedient. Although God is active and demonstrates grace to both believers and unbelievers, he does promise to care for his children and to never forget them. That cannot be said for the disobedient who do not follow him.
A severe love is what distinguishes the difference between the Father giving Christ over for execution, Jesus delivering himself, and Judas betraying Christ to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver. As Augustine of Hippo once said, "What the Father and the Son did in love, Judas did in treacherous betrayal.. . . God had in mind our redemption, Judas had in mind the price for which he sold Jesus. Jesus himself, had in mind the price He gave for us. . . . Love must sometimes show itself severe."
God's decrees in the social and political realm include the family and the home. In the very beginning, God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18). By the fact that God made one man and only one woman, he indicated that marriage was to be monogamous and indissoluble (Matt. 19:3-9). All through the Scriptures, the sanctity of marriage is recognized. The decree of marriage implies the decree to have and to establish a home.
The decree of human government is closely related to that of the family. God has by decree determined the location, season, and boundaries of the nations. He has likewise ordained the rulers of the nations (Dan. 4:34-37; Rom. 13:1-7). All rulers are to recognize the sovereign rule of God and to seek to carry out his will (Ps. 2:10-12). If the ruler chooses not to and makes laws contrary to the commandments of God, the subjects are to obey God rather than the human ruler (Acts 4:19; 5:29).
The call and mission of Israel began when God chose Abraham to be the leader of his chosen people (Gen. 12:1-3). God then limited the bloodline after Abraham to Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob. God chose Israel for himself, to make them a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exod. 19:4—6). When Israel miserably failed God, the natural branches were broken off and the Gentiles, signified by branches of a wild olive tree, were grafted into the stem (Rom. 11:11-22). Someday God will graft in again the natural branches (Rom. 11:23-27).
The founding and mission of the church came about when Jesus declared that he would build his church (Matt. 16:18), indicating that it was not yet in existence at that time. Paul declared that while the church was included in God's eternal purpose, the nature of it was not fully revealed until Jesus' day (Eph. 3:1-13).
The final triumph of God will occur when the Father gives all the kingdoms of the world to Christ (Ps. 2:6-9; Dan. 7:13-14; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 11:15-17; 19:11-20:6). In connection with his taking over these kingdoms, there will be the "regeneration" of nature (Matt. 19:27-30; Rom. 8:19-22). His rule will be characterized by peace and righteousness (Ps. 2:8-12; Isa. 9:6-7). This first phase of God's triumph on the earth will last for a period of a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6). After Satan's final revolt and the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:7-15) will come the new heavens, new earth, and the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5). Then Christ will deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father; and the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will reign forever and ever (1 Cor. 15:23-28).
All of these things were decreed by God and will come to pass.
The core of God's plan is to rescue us from sin. Our pain, poverty, and broken hearts are not his ultimate focus. . . . God cares most about teaching us to hate our sins, grow up spiritually, and love him. People's illnesses weren't Jesus' focus—the gospel was. His miracles were a backdrop, a visual aid, to his urgent message. Jesus' message was: Sin will kill you, hell is real, God is merciful, his kingdom will change you, and I am your passport.